Mike Ekeler's fascinating first-hand account on the life of an assistant
Mike Ekeler is from David City, Nebraska. After playing his college ball at Kansas State, Ekeler's coaching career began at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha. After climbing the coaching ladder at Oklahoma and LSU, his first full-time job came as the linebackers coach at Nebraska. In 2011, Ekeler left his dream job for another dream job, as Indiana's defensive coordinator. Two years later, he was coaching linebackers at USC, where the Trojans' tilt-a-whirl 2013 season left out of a job despite a wonderfully successful season considering the extraordinary circumstances.
Ekeler provided a letter to the Journal Star detailing his travels since leaving Nebraska and the scramble that led him to land a job as Georgia's inside linebackers coach. It's a fascinating peek inside the world of a major college assistant. We're not going to post the full letter - which may be found here - but here are a few excerpts.
On leaving Nebraska for the Indiana defensive coordinator job:
Dec. 24th, 2010, was one of the hardest days of my life. We had our last bowl practice in Lincoln and it was the day I told our LB group (Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Lavonte David, Alonzo Whaley, Matt May and pseudo assistant coach Blake Lawrence) that I was leaving. After practice we gathered in our LB group and I broke the news, at least tried to break the news. I couldn't talk, I just started crying and looked up and the whole group was crying. When you leave a dream job, you leave for one reason, and that is to grow both as a person and as a coach.
On learning that he would not be retained at USC:
Dec. 4th, I was sitting in my office game-planning for our bowl game and noticed who I thought was Peter Sirmon (Sark's LB coach from Washington). He was in the office across the hall filling out H.R. paperwork. I walked over and introduced myself as the "former LBs coach at USC." I ended up meeting with Sark the next day and told him if he hadn’t brought his defensive coaches from UW, I wouldn’t have respected him or wanted to work for him. During the next three weeks, I became friends with all the new coaches. It was unusual. We shared our offices and they watched the bowl practices. Dec. 21 we won our bowl game, and I'm officially on the street.
On using his old contacts, especially ones at Nebraska, to get his new job at Georgia: